Food Stamp benefits to be cut in November

Kush Azrael | 8/23/2013, 10:46 a.m.
Using research from the USDA that shows low income families still fail to meet basic standards for food security, the ...

Ohioans who struggle to put food on the table will soon have to struggle even more due to proposed cuts taking place in October.

The slight boost in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP formerly known as food stamps) that was included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) expires in October which according to data from the US Department of Agriculture means a reduction of about $25 a month for each recipient.

Food stamp benefits for Ohioans had been set to decrease in January by about $50 per household per month because of the way utility expenses are calculated, a mild winter last year, and lower price for natural gas. An agreement last week by the USDA to let the state use a different calculation reduces the decrease.

For the 860,000 households enrolled in the program, that could amount to roughly $520 million annual for grocery budgets.

Recipients are expected to receive a letter this month from Department of Job and Family Services explaining the change.

Using research from the USDA that shows low income families still fail to meet basic standards for food security, the Center on Budget and Policy priorities (CBPP) says the cuts will hit families that arguably need more not less, help: “Given this research and the growing awareness of the inadequacy of current SNAP benefit allotments, we can reasonably assume that a reduction in SNAP benefits levels of this size will significantly increase the number of poorer households that have difficulty affording adequate food this fall.”

About 52.6 percent of Cleveland children live in poverty according to a study by the National Center for Children in poverty. Cuts to the SNAP program take place automatically in November instead of April 2014 as originally scheduled.

The ARRA was a response to the economic shift downwards as a way of delivering “bang for the buck” economic stimulus to ease hardship. According to CBPP, ARRA increased SNAP maximum monthly benefits by 13.6 percent beginning April 2009. Benefits increased for all participants by household. For example for a one person household, the extra benefit was $24 a month. Because some households received less than the maximum benefits received the same fixed increase, the increase to average benefits was larger in term of percentage points.

It seems unlikely that President Obama and congress will come up with a solution to this problem, as the president and some congress persons have proposed. In August 2010 President Obama signed legislature to accelerate the onset of the ARRA benefit increase to 2014 and used the estimated savings for state fiscal relief through additional federal funding for school districts to maintain teacher’s jobs and maintaining a higher federal match for medicaid costs says the CBPP.

SNAP is the first line of defense for low income families.

Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director, Ohio Association of Foodbanks is worried that it will put a crunch on Ohio based foodbanks.

“This is the only thing that they have at which to purchase food, and they are falling short every month,” said Hamler-Fugitt. “This means that they’re going to miss more meals or be forced into food pantry and soup kitchen lines to make up the loss.”